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Civilizations


All of the characters, battles, books, wars, and maps on the heritage history page are categorized as belonging to one or more civilizations. The purpose of such categories, of course, is to help students find books on related topics, and for many civilizations, such as Ancient Greece and Rome, there is little ambiguity in the decision of exactly what constitutes a civilization. However, not every decision about the grouping of various cultures, is as straightforward.

MAP OF THE WORLD, DRAWN IN 1500 AD, THE FIRST TO SHOW AMERICA

Two of the main fields of difficulty are Europe and Asia. In the case of the former, we have a great deal of material—so much so, that we have split Europe into four different sections: British, Hispanic (Spain & Portugal), Norse (Russia, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia), and European (Germany, Italy, France). In the case of Asia, we have far less material available, so we have grouped China, Japan, Mongol, and India into a single Asian division. It is obvious that the Asia civilizations we have grouped together have very disparate histories and equally obvious that European culture overflows our divisions.

But there are even more perplexing difficulties. Is South Africa a European or African civilization? Are the American Indians a single civilization, or many? Is Christian history—that is, the lives of the saints and theological controversies part of European history, or is it a separate civilization. And what about Jewish History, which is likewise, international. Is the British Raj Indian history or British history? Was the Moorish Empire Spanish or Moslem?

The categories into which we have resolved to divide all world civilizations are provided in the following chart, but we recognize that some arbitrary decisions were involved, and may adjust categories in future revisions. In cases where a book clearly pertains to more than one civilization, it is either categorized by its two most predominant cultures, or, in the case of books that are genuinely international in orientation, catagorized as "world" history.


CivilizationNations, Peoples, Cultures
GreekGreek, Persian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian
Roman Roman, Punic, Gallic, Byzantine
British British Celt, English, Scottish, Irish, Imperial British
Hispanic Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American, Aztec, Incan
American American, American Indian, New France
European French, Netherlands, German, Swiss, Italian
Norse Norse, Pre-Christian Germanic, Scandinavian, Slavic
African Zulu, West African, South African, Boer
Asian Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Mongol (Tartar)
Moslem Arab, Iranian, Ottoman, Berber, Moorish
Christian Biblical, Saints, Christian heroes, Church History


Compact Libraries

Heritage History offers two styles of Compact Libraries, Classical Libraries and Classical Curriculums, to those who would like to purchase a collection of books on a particular theme. Most Compact Libraries are organized by civilization, but several contain books on a variety of subjects and are organized by reading level. Each Compact Library contains at least forty e-books in both printable and e-reader formats.

In spite of the fact that most of the Compact Libraries are organized by civilization, there is not a one-to-one mapping between the major civilization categories, and the Compact Library subjects. The following chart shows the correspondence between Compact Libraries topics and major civilization catetories:


Compact LibraryCivilizations Included
Young ReadersEasy-to-read selections from American, Christian, British, and European categories
Ancient GreeceGreek
Ancient RomeRoman
British Middle AgesBritish to 1700's, selections from European 500 to 1700
British EmpireBritish from 1700-1920, selections from colonial Africa and Asia
Early AmericaAmerican
Spanish EmpireHispania
Christian EuropeSelections from Christian, European 500 to 1700
Modern EuropeEuropean 1700 to 1920
Intermediate ReadersSelections from Asia, Africa, Norse, Moslem

The main reason that the Compact Libraries are organized differently from the online library is because there is not an equal distribution of material among the various civilizations designated above. Particularly among juvenile history, there is far more material available that relates to American, British, and Western European history than most of the other civilizations. This corresponds to the fact that these civilizations are immediately more relevant to Anglo-American history than other fascinating, but more remote cultures.

The bias toward classical western cultures is even more strinking among histories written for youngsters than it is for more advanced histories. We have many excellent selections for Spain and Latin American history, for example, but very few that are appropriate for grammar school students. This is true of Russian, Asian, and Moslem histories as well. For this reason, we have grouped many of the most approprate intermediate level readings from Asia, Africa, Norse and Moslem histories into an Intermediate Reader collection. We do not currently have enough material to justify producing a complete Compact Library for any one of these civilizations.

Finally, the Compact Libraries were produced to be useful to students who are using the Heritage Classical Curriculum or following other similar history programs. The Heritage Curriculum accomodates a large amount of elective reading, and we encourage students to explore a variety of civilizations, but the core curriculum itself, focuses primarily on Ancient, British, and American history. We believe that this provides an essential foundation that all students should have.

A much more detailed description of the contents and recommended sequence of the Heritage Classical Curriculum is given in the Curriculum Guide.

Non-Western Civilizations

The great majority of the history books we have available fall into the category of classical Western Civilization, and this forms the core of the Heritage Classical Curriculum. We ourselves, however, are extremely interested in non-western cultures, and have worked to collect as much material as could be found on other civilizations. We made putting introductory material related to non-western cultures a high priority, and some excellent books have already been done within all civilization categories. We intend to do more, but there are limited books available to work from, particularly books that would appeal to younger students.

By way of explaining the disparity in suitable books between western and non-western cultures, it is important to remember that international travel and communication were still very limited in 1923 (our cut-off date), and little was generally known about most Asian and African cultures until the late nineteenth century. Britain and other colonial-minded European communities took a great interest in non-western cultures, and sent scholars all over the globe to research foreign civilizations, and write their folklore and histories into English as soon as it was logistically possible. These early pioneers often faced difficulties and dangers that modern scholars cannot even imagine, and yet produced many excellent books, often written for the non-specialist.

Several of the authors we have published traveled extensively in foreign civilizations during the nineteenth century, (or even earlier) and wrote first hand accounts of their experiences. Some of these writers include

  • Paul du Chaillu, the first American to explore the interior of equatorial Africa;
  • Robert Van Bergen, an American who lived in Japan for several decades shortly after it was first opened to foreigners, and wrote a first hand account of the Choshiu-Satsuma Rebellion against the Tokugawa government;
  • John Esquemeling, a pirate who actually participated in some of the most famous freebooter raids of the Spanish Main during the seventeenth century, and survived to write a famous book about them;
  • Howard Hillegas, an American who traveled with the Boer army during the war in South Africa;
  • Frederick A. Ober, an ornithologist who spent decades in the West Indies, and wrote a series of books about Spanish exploits in the region;
  • Charles A. Eastman, (a.k.a. Ohiyesa), an American Indian who grew up among his native people on the Northern Plains, before being introduced to western civilization as a young man;
  • Oliver Otis Howard, commander of Indian affairs under President Grant, who led the American forces against the Nez Perce, and negotiated treaties with many of the western Indians;
  • James Willard Schultz, early settler in Montana who married an Indian woman, and wrote about his adventures with the Blackfeet, trappers, and traders who lived in the region;
  • Demetra Vaka, a native Greek who grew up in Turkey and returned as a young woman to visit her childhood friends, who were mostly living in harems, and
  • A. W. Kinglake, an Englishman who traveled throughout the middle east in the early 19th century under rather harrowing conditions.

The difficulties that several of these writers personally encountered in their adventures do a great deal to illustrate the enormous differences between western and foreign cultures as they actually existed at the time, and to dispel a great deal of modern misrepresentations. The point of course, is that it was not narrow-mindedness or disinterest that prevented many of our forefathers from learning about other world civilizations, but rather, tremendous barriers to travel and communication.

With today's, jet-setting "international community", McDonalds-ification of commerce, and smorgasbord approach to academic multiculturalism, it is easy to forget how utterly isolated and remote the farthest reaches of the world were for most of recorded history and how stark the differences in human societies truly were.

Ironically, reading histories of these diverse non-western cultures as they were written in the 19th century by writers who observed them as they were at the time, gives a unique and valuable perspective that is not possible to duplicate by reading histories written by modern scholars.

The opportunity to study an indigenous culture before the full effects of modernity transformed it, is long past. There is no longer any indigenous culture anywhere in the world that has not been dramatically transformed, for good or evil, by modernity. Yet in the 19th century, the coming tsunami had not yet washed ashore on all continents, and there were still pockets of authentic indigenous culture in African villages, Chinese towns, Japanese hamlets, Arabian deserts, and Polynesian islands. It was the mission of most of these traveling authors to report what they actually saw and experienced in these foreign cultures, and many of their works are refreshingly frank, even-handed, and free from modern posturing.


Another discussion of the reasons that Western histories of are so much more plentiful than those of non western regions is given in this essay.